Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 11: The Non-Returner

9. Devadatta

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha was staying at Kalandaka Bamboo Park of Rājagṛha.[2] He was accompanied by a large assembly of five hundred monks.

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “How is it, monks? Does anyone see Devadatta’s[3] teaching as clean? Still, Devadatta’s evil is quite grave, and he’ll get a punishment for an eon[4], which cannot be cured. I do not see a thread’s breadth of goodness in my Dharma that someone could describe of him. Because of this, I now say that the source of Devadatta’s punishment cannot be cured.

3. “He’s like a man who fell into a deep latrine. His whole body was submerged in it, and nowhere is he clean. Someone comes along to save his life and put him somewhere clean. Looking all around the sides of the latrine and that man, would they see a clean place? [The man asks,] ‘I’d like to grab something and pull myself out.’ But after looking over that place where nothing is clean for something the man could grab, they would give up and leave.

4. “Thus, monks, do I regard that fool Devadatta. I do not see a thread’s breadth of goodness that someone could describe of him. He’ll get a punishment for an eon that cannot be cured. Why is that? Devadatta was focused on foolishness. Inclined to being attached to profit, he committed the five terrible sins, and he was born in a bad destiny when his body broke up and his life ended. Thus, monks, profit is a grave thing that causes people not to find the place of safety.

5. “Therefore, monks, thoughts of profit that have arisen must be abandoned. If they have yet to arise, then don’t create anymore thoughts obsessed with it. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”

6. When the monks heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved.


  1. While I’ve not found a direct parallel to this sūtra, it should be noted that SN 17.31-36 share the same theme of Devadattva’s downfall being rooted in a desire for profit, but they include different metaphors to illustrate the point. Here, the Buddha’s declaration of Devadatta’s fate leads to an encounter with one of his supporters in the next sūtra. [back]
  2. Kalandaka Bamboo Park. C. 迦蘭陀竹園 (EMC. kă-lan-da = G. Kalanda + trans. 竹 = bamboo, 園 = park).
    Rājagṛha. C. 羅閲城 (EMC. la-yiuɛt = G. *Raya[gaha] + trans. 城 = city). P. Rājagaha, S. Rājagṛha. In G., -j- typically weakened to -y-, and there were no long vowels. The translit. appears abbreviated, or perhaps S. gṛha was trans. loosely as “city.” [back]
  3. Devadatta. C. 提婆達兜 (EMC. dei-bua-dat-təu = G. devadato). Devadatta was a monk who attempted to create a schism in the Saṅgha and murder the Buddha. As a result, he figured prominently as an irredeemable villain in early Buddhist sources. For more about him, see Devadatta’s entry in the Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names. [back]
  4. for an eon. C. 經劫. The next sūtra specifies that it was one eon. Here, it’s unclear whether “eon” (C. 劫, S. kalpa) is singular or plural, but I assume the original passages were in agreement. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 07 May 2023